Slow climb to the top for women in Honours

Belinda Tasker

Women are for the first time outnumbering men in the list of people receiving the top Queen's Birthday Honours.

Six out of the 10 Australians being awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) on Monday are women.

Swimming legend Dawn Fraser, Federal Court judge Catherine Branson, and former Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation deputy chair Erica Smyth are among those recipients.

Ms Smyth, who is being recognised for her services to the community through her roles with charities and scientific organisations, says the rise in the number of women receiving the highest honours reflects a growing appreciation of the role they play in society.

"Often what women do traditionally has gone under the radar and now we are recognising more and more that there's so much everyone in our community does to make it work and women are part of that," she told AAP.

Ms Smyth, who has more than 40 years experience in the mineral and petroleum industries and currently chairs the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, said everyone she had worked with in her career should share her pride in being awarded an AC.

"I would like to cut it up into little pieces and give everyone a piece," she said.

Overall a total of 778 awards and appointments were announced in the Order of Australia's General Division.

However, fewer than half - 289 - of the total number of recipients were women.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove has led a push in recent years to encourage people to nominate more women for awards like the Queen's Birthday Honours and Australia Day awards in an attempt to end the domination of men on the lists.

Women made up just over a third of all nominations for this year's Queen's Birthday Honours, slightly more than the 31.8 per cent considered for Australia Day honours.

Nominations of women are 72 per cent higher than five years ago.

Australian women may be making gains, but they lag their British sisters.

By comparison, the proportion of British women receiving the highest Queen's Birthday Honours this year was 41 per cent.

Among the 68 people being made Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), just under half were women, including Macquarie Dictionary publisher Susan Butler, author Kate Grenville, former Greens leader Christine Milne, and Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

Fashion designer Jenny Kee, Paralympian gold medalist Kurt Fearnley and comedian and writer Tom Gleisner were also among those being made an AO.